“Court is now in session! The court presents the case of The World vs. Michelle, the honorable judge Michelle presiding.”
In the case of anyone who has ever offended me in my life, I am the self-appointed prosecuting attorney, testifying witness, acting jury, and judge. I imagine myself sitting on the judge’s seat on a huge elevated platform, in my black robe, curled and powdered wig firmly in place, as in paintings I’ve seen of Colonial Williamsburg days.
Bang! Bang! Pounding my wooden gavel on the podium, I call the first witness to the stand – myself.
“Your Honor, the accused has committed unpardonable crimes against Your Honorable self, which you will find listed on this record.”
A scroll is rolled out the length of the courtroom, the end finally bumping to a halt against the far wall. The prosecuting attorney reads the list of offenses aloud.
“The accused is charged with:
Insensitivity to Your Honor’s feelings,
Failure to admit fault,
Lack of apology…”
“Guilty! Guilty!” scream the jury, before the list is even finished. The many faces of my own emotions scowl from the jury stand – anger, bitterness, wounded pride, fear of others’ opinions, self-righteousness, a critical spirit, desire for revenge.
“Order! Order in the court!” I pound the gavel to silence the crowd.
“In the case of The World vs. Michelle, the court finds the accused guilty and sentenced to a life of shame and condemnation, without chance of parole.”
Have you ever wanted to be the judge in the case of someone who has hurt or offended you? Have you been sitting on the judge’s seat in your own heart? What does that person “owe” you? What would your sentence be?
But what if the scene were to change, and I were the one being accused? There IS a supreme Judge over all mankind, who has every reason to condemn me to a life sentence without parole. The Bible says that we will “have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word” (Matt 12:36), and that “God will judge men’s secrets” (Rom 2:16). Nothing is hidden from him. And no clever defense attorney can talk us out of the due penalty for our sins. Our only hope is in our Advocate, Jesus Christ, who “is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Rom 8:34).
The amazing, incomprehensible miracle of grace is that Jesus steps in before the gavel comes down, and says that He will take my sentence upon Himself. How can I refuse such an offer? And once I realize how much I have been forgiven, how can I possibly stand in judgment of another who has offended me?
As I mentally get up out of the judge’s seat, take off my powdered wig, and lay down my gavel, I return that rightful place to the Supreme Judge. I tear up the “sentence” of what the offending person “owes me” and lay it at the feet of Jesus. Forgiving doesn’t mean that person is off the hook. It just means they’re off MY hook. I’M not the judge. I’ll leave that job to the Creator of the Universe. For as I’ve been forgiven, I must forgive.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Luke 6:37 (NIV)